“If there was one place in Macao that I’d say is the most local – it has to be Rua dos Ervanários,” says Fortes Pakeong Sequeira.
Sequeira – a musician and an artist – has been visiting Rua dos Ervanários, and its neighbouring streets, since he was a kid. But never imagined himself owning a shop in the district until an opportunity came knocking in 2017. He leased a former blacksmith’s workshop and turned it into a café called A Porta da Arte, or “the door of art.”
Rua dos Ervanários (meaning “street of herbalists”) has been a hub for traders and merchants since the 16th century. Today, a mixture of decades-old businesses and trendy stores have created a unique ambience on the street and in the surrounding area, luring a younger generation of customers.
Judging by the waves and friendly smiles, Sequeira is clearly well-known locally. These are some of his favourite spots in, and around, Rua dos Ervanários.
Estabelecimento de Comidas Tou Veng Kei
Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Located right off the tip of Rua dos Ervanários, Tou Veng Kei has been around for more than 60 years and began life as a food cart with a small table and some chairs. Business became so good that founder Tou Veng bought the shop behind the cart in 1975 and set up a restaurant.
These days, the cart has morphed into a bread and pastry counter but it still functions as an advertisement for the restaurant, says second-generation owner Rex To.
A must-try dish is a congee, paired with deep-fried dough sticks (油炸鬼), which Sequeira remembers enjoying as a child. The sticks are “good with congee, but for me, I love them with Coca-Cola,” Rex laughs.
Address: Rua de Nossa Sra. do Amparo, 49 Edificio Nga Vo, Macao
Phone Number: (853) 2833 3326
Macao’s first crystal shop GemsAwakening recently moved to the Rua dos Ervanários and Sequeira is one of the store’s many loyal followers, using its crystals for meditation from time to time. “When you enter the store you feel a good energy,” he says.
Wondering which crystal works for you? In an interview with Macao News in 2021, cofounder Carol Lim explained, “The very first thing to do in a crystal shop is let yourself be pulled in a particular direction, rather than thinking about where to go. See which crystal catches your eye, and pick it up to get a feel for it.”
With its new bigger space, the owners are looking to start workshops in the coming new year. They have also set up a small bar serving drinks cheekily labelled as “potions.” Try Aphrodite’s Kiss (made of rose, apple and hibiscus) or Mirror Mirror (hibiscus, strawberry and white chrysanthemum).
Estabelecimento de Comidas Ching Kei
Dumpling shop Ching Kei was founded in the 1960s. Today, it’s run by third-generation owner and IFTM graduate Ao Chi Keong, who has updated the menu with creative additions like his locally famous “green noodles,” made with chives.
He also makes some dumplings with wonton skins instead of the heavier casings. Sequeira calls them “dumplings from Macao.” The fish balls and beef brisket meanwhile win rave reviews.
Ao takes pride in his cooking and frowns on takeaway orders, so grab a seat and enjoy the dishes when they’re hot and fresh.
Address: Rua das Estalagens G/F, 37B
Phone Number: (853) 2892 3822
Estabelecimento de Comidas Ving Kei
If you love tofu, this is the right place. Ving Kei was established in 1958 and has some of the best in town. From boiling and grinding the beans to forming blocks of curd, all of it is done in-house. The restaurant is also proud of its tradition of cooking over an open fire.
You won’t be able to tell from looking at the shop’s messy frontage, but local designer Au Chon Hin helped revamp Ving Kei’s graphic identity in 2019, giving its packaging a refreshed look, while also retaining the mid-century elements.
[See more: How to do Rua do Cunha like a pro]
Whenever Sequeira visits the store, he says his must-haves are “noodles with tofu and mushroom or meat” washed down with homemade soya milk. Ving Kei’s must-try signature dish is the cold and hot sweet tofu pudding.
Address: Rua da Tercena G/F, 47A
Phone Number: (853) 2892 1152
Royal Place’s swiss rolls win fans from far and wide.
There are many flavour choices from Japanese mango to pandan, but the standout is and has always been the matcha-flavoured cakes, rolls and mochi. Sequeira vouches for the matcha rolls and is a big fan.
The matcha used is made by Marukyu Koyamaen of Kyoto, described by the storekeeper as “a high quality powder.”
Tai Sing Kung Cha Medicinal
According to Memória de Macau – an association established to preserve Macao’s culture and heritage – Tai Sing Kung Cha Medicinal is the oldest tea shop in Macao. Without giving a specific year, the association says the store dates “from the Qing Dynasty,” which would make it at least 112 years old.
The shop is located along the slope of the Ruins of St Paul, about two minutes away from Rua dos Ervanários. The elegantly dressed sixth-generation owner Sio Hong runs the store herself.
The store has kept its old-fashioned fittings and serves two types of herbal tea in plain, unbranded bottles: 24-flavoured tea (also called “24-herb tea”) and five-flower tea. Both are popular Cantonese concoctions, with the former used to relieve what Traditional Chinese Medicine terms “excessive heat.” The latter is far more palatable and consumed as a detoxifier and immunity booster.
“The 24 Herbs is a black drink that is bitter and is good for a cold or flu, while the Five Herbs is an orange-looking drink that is a sweet, good daily drink and is good for your health,” Sequeira says.
Address: Rua de São Paulo, Edificio Mang Fat, 1 Macao
Phone Number: (853) 6886 7498